Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sprinkles in the Windy City

Ever since I started Batter Up people have been RAVING about Sprinkles cupcakes (  I have had Sprinkles in the past and honestly wasn't that impressed.  However, I am throwing all past opinions out the window and starting fresh.  Sprinkles originally opend in Beverly Hills and they now have 10 additional locations throughout the US.  One of them being here in Chicago. 

I had dinner plans last night and felt that a bottle of red and some cupcakes were the perfect contribution to a homemade feast.  I love the atmosphere when I walk into Sprinkles.  It is exactly what I expect out of a cupcakery.  Entering the door to rows of beautiful cupcakes, bright colors, and thats it!  No fluff.  I was craving peanut butter, so I decided to get two of the Peanut Butter Chocalate cakes (I didnt want to run into the same dilemma as the bacon cupcake where I was barely able to steal a bite).
Peanut Butter Chocolate
1)The cake - peanut butter cake with chocolate chips.  It was fine.  I liked the peanut butter flavor and the fact that it had actual chocolate chips in the mix, but the cake itself was kind of dry.  Peanut butter can be tough to work with and I picked them up at 6PM so I'll cut a little slack (but just a little).  2)Icing - Milk Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting topped with Sprinkles!  I liked the frosting a lot.  Nothing better than a great milk chocolate frosting done right.  I could have done without the sprinkles on top BUT the name of the cupcakery is Sprinkles so obviously it makes sense.  3) Presentation - perfect!  Simple.  Just a nice layer of frosting with another full layer of sprinkles.  They are displayed in the case in a way that makes you want to buy every variety because they look so delicious.  I love the cardboard box with logo sticker.  The box had cut outs inside so our cupcakes were still in tact after my train ride.  4) creativity - Peanut Butter Chocolate isn't the most creative..  You are hearing this from someone that has been to a number of cupcakeries, so I see a lot of cakes.  PBC isn't everywhere, but I'd say at least 1 out of 3 shops have a peanut butter variety.  I mean, even Starbucks carries a Peanut Butter Chocolate cupcake! 5) Overall Happiness - meh, about what I was expecting.  I wasn't blown away which is unfortunate for all the hype they get.  My hope is that this blog will make it big time and people will realize cupcakeries like Sweet Mandy B's (Chicago) and Delish (Austin) are where it's at.  They deserve way more recognition. 

There are little things about Sprinkles that I do love: 1) They create their own wooden sporks to go with the cupcakes.  Unless it is a mini cake all cupcakes should be eaten with a fork, so I love that they recognize this and have designed their own utencil.  2) They offer dog cakes!  I'm a lover of canines and think it is a phenomonal idea to make a treat for pups so they dont feel left out. 

I am sure I will give Sprinkles another chance, but not in Chicago. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Keep Austin DELISH

"Keep Austin Weird" is the unofficial slogan for the city of Austin, TX.  I don't think Austin is weird, I think it is AMAZING!  It is without question one of my top 5 favorite cities.  It doesn't fit in with the thematic of Texas as a whole, but it is a great little city full of music, great eating, and a very diverse group of people.  It is also the home to my favorite cupcakery - Delish! (  I discovered delish several months ago and could not wait to get back to Austin to go again.  

On this trip I went with their flavor of the day - Strawberry Shortcake.  Just phenomenal.  1)Cake - moist perfection.  It was a yellow cake with fresh strawberries in the middle.  2) icing - a vanilla buttercream with strawberry glaze on top.  It was just the right amount to support the cake.  3) presentation - I'm not mad about it.  They put the cupcakes in a clear cup because of the strawberries.  This is a necessary move so the cake doesn't fall apart and I still thought it looked great.  I also like their to-go packaging.  It was just a plain cardboard box with their yellow sticker on the front.  The box had cut outs for the cupcake so it wouldn't move around in transit.  4) creativity - fair.  Obviously strawberry shortcake isn't anything new, but the way they present it in the cup with the fresh strawberries is creative.  5)overall happiness - I don't think it will come as a shock to anyone that I was VERY happy after indulging.  They sure know how to make cupcakes in Austin.  Delish is hands down my favorite cupcakery in the country at this point.  They are for sure leading the league and I would be shocked to find a place that is better.  I can't wait to head back down to Austin for another visit to delish.  If you haven't been I recommend you schedule a trip this week.  Not only is Austin an outstanding city, but they have the best cupcakes!


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my beautiful mother's birthday, and since we live over 1,000 miles apart from each other I figured I would honor it with a cupcake! 

Growing up there was always some type of dessert in my house.  One of the most popular sweet treats was a batch of Snickerdoodle cookies.  So to celebrate her big day I went to one of my favorite cupcakeries - Sweet Mandy B's - and had a Snickerdoodle cupcake!  I was able to drag my dear friend Ms. Katie Brooks along with me.  This was very fitting since she was the one that introduced me to Sweet Mandy B's several months ago.  Sweet Mandy B's is located here in Chicago in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. 
 1) The cake - The base is a cinnamon cake.  The flavor was great, but unfortunately it was slightly dry.  2) icing - AMAZING!  This cupcake had a cinnamon cream cheese icing that was outstanding! 3) presentation - simple.  Just a swirl of icing on top.  I didn't get a to-go box because we ate the cupcakes at the shop 4) creativity - pretty creative - I have yet to see a snickerdoodle cupcake anywhere else.  5) overall happiness - very happy.  I love Sweet Mandy B's, so thanks mom for giving me an excuse to go ;)
Bananas Foster
 Katie also ordered a desert with a twist as she went with a Bananas Foster cupcake!  I am so happy she chose that cupcake because never in a million years would I have walked in and ordered that.  I love bananas, but not as a dessert.  1) the cake - outstanding! It was so moist and so flavorful.  It was like banana bread sans nuts (which I loved because I hate nuts) 2) icing - mmm so good.  It was a caramel icing with caramel drizzled on top and a few white chocolate chips 3) presentation - great.  Same as the snickerdoodle, very simple.  4) creativity - I thought this was very creative.  I have not seen this flavor anywhere else, but I also was never looking for banana.  If I remember correctly I think they actually had 3 different banana cupcakes which is very unusual.  5)overall happiness - well, this was Katie's cupcake not mine, so I had cupcake envy.  Don't get me wrong, mine was great but I think the bananas foster was amazing.  They really did a great job here.  She was incredibly happy with her decision. 

If you live in Chicago and have not been to Sweet Mandy B's, get there immediately!  This is my favorite shop in the city so far.  I have only been to a handful, but I have yet to find a better cupcake. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Georgetown Cupcakes!

Georgetown, Texas that is :).  I was up at a morning meeting in Georgetown and while leaving I drove right past Galaxy Cupcakes (  Honestly half the time I don't need to seek out cupcakeries because they pop up right in front of me.  I wasn't even planning on making a stop in Georgetown but it was almost as if it was meant to be so I felt obligated to go in even though it was 10AM.  Once again they had tiny cupcakes!  They had such a variety of unique flavors that I had a really tough time deciding what to choose.  Just look at this awesomeness...
This was only half the case
I ended up trying their MIMOSA flavor, after all it is my favorite morning cocktail.  This is an orange and champagne flavored cupcake.  The champagne is mixed into the batter, so it actually bakes out in the heating process.  Two other varieties I found intriguing were the Margarita and the Jack&Coke.  I thought about sampling the Margarita as well, but remember it was 10AM so I just went with a mini Mimosa.  The lady said that with both the Margarita and Jack&Coke that the alcohol is injected into the cake after the baking process, so there actually is alcohol in these two flavors.  

1)the cake - So moist with little orange bits.  Had a great flavor and consistency.  2)icing - delish.  It was very creamy and reminded me of an orange flavored push pop 3)presentation - cute simple dab of icing.  loved it.  I wasn't given a to go container, so I guess she could just see it in my eyes that I was going to eat it at that very moment.  4)creativity - absolutely very creative.  I loved the idea of a mimosa cupcake.  I also liked the other creative flavors they offered, but can't speak to them since I didn't try them.  5)overall happiness - so happy.  This was a perfect little gem to stumble upon.  I thought the cupcake was delicious and I would absolutely order it again.

If you are ever in Georgetown, TX you should go to Galaxy Cupcakes.  I am hoping that I make it back to that part of Texas soon, because I would love to try some of their other varieties.  yum yum yum!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Baseball Season is Back

I know Opening Day was over a week ago, but it just didn't feel like baseball was back.  This was the first time in years I was not in Cincinnati for Opening Day and I can't even watch them on tv here unless I go to a bar.  In my mind it still felt like spring training.  I went to the Cubs Opening Day at Wrigley, but it felt more like a football game.  It was 38 degrees, grey, and raining.  My friend Jesse was in town from Florida so you can imagine how happy he was to leave 70 degrees to sit in the freezing rain!  To make matters worse, neither of us are Cubs fans!  We only lasted 3 innings.  We may not have even made it that long but we were with a group of die hard fans so we had to stick it out for a little bit.  
I receive text alerts on my phone for every scoring play during Reds games, but it still didn't feel like baseball season.  That quickly changed on my trip to Texas this past week.  I went to the opening game for the Round Rock Express.  They are a Triple A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.  Now this was a far cry from the opening day I am used to in Cincinnati, but it was amazing!  The picture makes the ball park seem much bigger than actual size.
Dell Diamond
I arrived about an hour before game time and purchased a ticket for $12 - first row next to the visitors dugout. They were playing the Iowa Cubs an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs so I sat by them.  Not that I am or will ever be a Cubs fan, but it was between Chicago and Texas so I figured I'd cheer for the team where I currently reside.  Before the game I took a stroll around the stadium.  I loved that each concession stand had a different name yet the food was the exact same at all locations.  There was a swimming pool at the entrance! That was new to me.  A fraternity had rented out that area (obviously).  Then I went down to my seat to enjoy the game.  It was so great - the players came over and said hi while they were warming up and made sure to talk with all the kids.  I understand this is the minor leagues, but I loved it.  Such a relaxed atmosphere and very intimate.  Overall I really enjoyed my first minor league experience and can't wait to go back!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

San Antonio Slugger…

Fiesta is currently taking place in San Antonio.  This is an annual spring festival to honor the memory of the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto.  It has evolved into the city's biggest festival with over 100 events spanning 11 days.  From what I hear NIOSA (a night in old San Antonio) is supposed to be one of the best events.  It is a four night block party full of live music, great food, and cocktails.  Unfortunately I wasn't aware of this great party until this week so I did not get to partake in the festivities.  I was however able to taste a couple local cupcakes sporting Fiesta themes!  

While in San Antonio I made a stop at Kate’s Frosting (  Again, Texas welcomed me with mini cupcakes!  They had a mini cake for every flavor which I greatly appreciated.  The selection wasn’t huge which is a good thing for me since I am so indecisive.  They of course had all the classics, but I decided to go with 2 of their specialties to keep in the spirit of Fiesta.  The first – MARIACHI – this was a chocolate cake with an orange flavored cream cheese frosting.  The second – THE DUTCHESS – a chocolate cake with Mexican chocolate frosting.  I know that sounds like A LOT of chocolate, but I have my reasons for the selections.  The Mariachi was the cupcake of the day, and I like to try the unique varieties each cupcakery creates.  Plus, I can’t say I have had that combination in the past.  I chose The Dutchess because I had just enjoyed some tex-mex for lunch and thought I would continue the theme with the Mexican chocolate.  The girl behind the counter informed me that it is considered Mexican chocolate because it has cinnamon in it.  That little fact also influenced my Dutchess decision, because in Cincinnati we make our chili the same way.  Skyline Chili has a hint of cinnamon in the mix! 
Kate's Carry Out Bag

MARIACHI  1) the cake – they did it right!  Had a perfect chocolate flavor and great consistency.  2) the icing – surprisingly delicious.  I had no clue what to expect with an orange cream cheese frosting, but the combination was fantastic.  I loved the creamy texture with the light orange taste! 3) presentation – average.  As mentioned before I love that they offer mini versions of their cakes, but the presentation was pretty standard.  Just a swirl of icing on top.  My biggest issue with presentation was that they put the cupcakes in a plain white bag.  Besides being incredibly boring it is not practical.  Icing is not durable, so as you can see in the pictures the bag got the best of my cupcakes before I even had a bite!  I can only assume this was a cost savings initiative, because they offered plain white boxes for $.50 a pop.  Even if I would have gone with the box it wouldn’t have worked with the minis.  If a cupcakery is going to offer mini cupcakes they should also offer appropriate means of transportation.  4) creativity – definitely get some creative points.  I have never had the combination of orange and chocolate before, and I think the two together turned out to be flawless.  I like what they were thinking behind mixing the 2 flavors.  5) overall happiness after indulging – very happy!  All around this was a great little cake.  Moist and flavorful cake combined with just the right amount of icing.  I would absolutely order this one again. 
THE DUTCHESS 1) the cake – whoa dry.  I could not believe how dry this was after the perfection I just witnessed in the Mariachi!  I only had this one about an hour after the 1st, and there was no way it could dry up that much.  I went back to the website and it looks like The Dutchess is actually Tuesday’s flavor of the day (I was there on Wednesday).  Now we run into 2 possible issues.  The first could be that they are serving a cupcake that was a day old when I was specifically told all cupcakes are made fresh daily.  The other issue could be that it was just a dry cake.  Either way it’s a sad situation.  2) the icing – now this was tasty.  I absolutely loved the hint of cinnamon mixed in with the chocolate.  Great combo and the buttercream texture was perfect.  Well, it was actually a little hard, but I will say that is my own fault for not eating it right at the time of purchase.  3) presentation – same as above.  Classic cupcake style with a swirl of icing on the cake 4) creativity – so, I personally thought this was decently creative.  I have never had a Mexican chocolate cupcake before, but then again I was basically on the border so this could be as common in San Antonio as Red Velvet is in Chicago.  5) Overall happiness after indulging – happyish.  I was so bummed that it was dry, because this would have been a killer cupcake.  I loved the flavor, but it wasn’t a grand slam in my book.
I'm new to the whole Twitter thing, but I started to "follow" Kate's Frosting (@katesfrosting) and it appears they will be hosting their First Annual Fiesta Cupcake Crawl!  It is today, so if you are down in San Antonio to enjoy the festivities definitely take part in the cupcake crawl.  The grand prize is a dozen free cupcakes a month for an ENTIRE YEAR!  

On a side note - during a previous trip to San Antonio I took the river tour (don't waste your time or money) so boring! You are better off taking a stroll down the River Walk on your own and seeing all the city has to offer.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Everything's Bigger in Texas

Not in the cupcake world.  While in Dallas I stumbled upon The Cupcakery (  I was instantly a fan when I walked in because almost all of their varieties also have a mini option. I absolutely love tiny food: mini cookies - amazing, tiny tacos - perfect, auntie annes pretzel bites - duh.  Since there were tiny options I was able to taste 2 flavors: strawberry shortcake and a yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  I love fruity cupcakes because they  remind me of spring/summer so that was an easy choice. Yellow cake with chocolate icing has been my favorite dessert since I was a kid so you will probably see me pick that flavor often.  Like Chicago, I will rate them individually.  

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE  1) the cake - it was moist and flavorful. I thought it was baked just the right amount of time.  2) icing - eh.  Not impressed. It was a heavy strawberry flavored cream frosting.  If anything I would say there was just too much strawberry.  If they used a vanilla buttercream this cupcake would have MUCH better! 3) presentation - well they also come in a Chinese take-out box like the more cupcakes so that was a disappointment.  I prefer something a little more unique.  I think they could have been less jazzy with the icing since it was such a small surface 4) creativity - mediocre at best. It was strawberry on strawberry and the flavor wasn't a knockout so I would have liked to see a little more - perhaps actual strawberries in the center 5) overall happiness - disappointed with my selection. 

YELLOW WITH CHOCOLATE ICING  1)the cake - same as the strawberry. Perfect texture decent flavor.  If you can't get a yellow cupcake right you may as well just close up shop.  2)icing - not right.  This combo should have a creamy milk chocolate frosting but instead they served a thicker darkish chocolate flavor.  It was way too rich to go on such a tiny cake 3)presentation - this was okay. A simple chocolate swirl topped with some white sprinkles.  I wasn't overly impressed but I also wasn't disappointed 4) creativity - there isn't much room to work here since with was a classic choice.  5)overall happiness - not good.  I really had high hopes for these tiny cakes but once again was left dissatisfied.

I loved the concept of having small and large versions, but in the end they didn't do it for me.  Initially I had no future plans to return to The Cupcakery, but after looking at their website and seeing some of their seasonal flavors my plans have changed.  Maybe I made a poor choice, so I will be sure to stop in again to try one of their flavors of the month. They also have a shop in Vegas so maybe I should head west to see if they make em right in Sin City

Until next time

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Chicago's Leadoff Hitter

While walking home from the grocery store the other day I happened to walk past more cupcakes is in Chicago on Deleware, just east of State Street.  Since I had dinner plans that night I figured I would pick up a couple cakes as my contribution.  

I went with a classic Red Velvet (hoping to make up for the Cincinnati disappointment) and a Bacon Maple.  I’m sure your initial thoughts are bacon? and a cupcake? gross.  BUT you should be thinking bacon! and a cupcake! AMAZING!!  I am a huge fan of bacon, so it would have been next to impossible to pass up this flavor.  I will rank them individually.  RED VELVET  1)the cake – disappointing.  It was pretty dry and not much flavor.  I bought them at 4:00PM so maybe they had been sitting out all day?  Even if that is the case it is no real excuse.  I should be able to get a fresh cupcake at 7 AM and in the early afternoon 2)the icing – great!  This is exactly how red velvet icing should taste.  It was a traditional cream cheese and just the right consistency.  3) presentation – clean, simple – perfect.  It was topped with a decorative piece of white chocolate (clearly Abby Girl in Cincinnati needs some lessons here).  I also liked the Chinese take out packaging with the more label.  4) creativity – again, hard to judge since I went with a classic, but the white chocolate garnish will earn them some bonus points in this category 5)my overall happiness after indulging – very happy!  This was definitely a win after a rough series on the road.  

BACON MAPLE (I could only steal a couple bites of this one) 1) the cake – again, dry.  So unfortunate because it would have made a HUGE difference.  There was just the right amount of bacon in the cake.  I could barely taste it, but still knew it was there.  2)the icing – perfection.  There was not any bacon in the icing (that I could taste) it was a light maple flavor that served as a perfect complement to the bacon cake.  If you are still weirded out by the thought of a bacon cupcake, close your eyes and picture Sunday morning – you are eating brunch and a little bit of your maple syrup rolls off your French toast on to your bacon. mmmm that’s what this cupcake is like. 3)presentation just like the red velvet I thought the presentation was just right.  Very simple and clean.  This was topped with a bacon maple toffee piece I think.  Someone was being selfish and I wasn’t allowed to try any of the garnish.  The feedback I received was that it tasted great, but will stick in your teeth.   4)creativity – um, obviously this is pretty creative.  Not too many bacon cupcakes out in the marketplace.  Definitely a grand slam in the creativity department.  5)overall happiness – well, like I said I only had a few bites, but was very happy.  I thought this was a truly unique cake that could have easily been a disaster but they did it right.  

Kudos more!  You currently are leading the league.  I was a little disappointed in the fact that both cupcakes were really dry, but when combined with the icing they weren’t terrible.  I’m sure I will give them another shot later in the season.  If you are in Chicago and down in the Gold Coast area stop by more to pick up one of their unique cakes - but try to get there early so the cake doesn't dry out.

In the words of Jay-Z, "on to the next one"

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cincinnati Redemption

So I got to thinking about my Cincy blunder, and I hate that I started off with a bad cupcake (especially from my hometown).  Cincinnati is home to some of my favorite eats outside of the cupcake world and since the cupcake wasn’t so great I will share some of my other dishes with you that I consider top notch. 

First would be the hot dogs at Senate  There is nothing better than a hot dog while watching a baseball game, but in the off season I had to get my fix elsewhere. Senate opened maybe a year or so ago in Over the Rhine (OTR). OTR was once known as one of the most dangerous hoods in Cincinnati but is now the home to many hipsters rocking plaid shirts and shopping organic.  I can’t complain because these acoustic-loving, skinny-jean-wearing folk bring along super trendy and unique restaurants.  I always go with the Trailer Park (sans slaw).  I have been tempted numerous times to try the dog of the day, but I would hate to be disappointed if it didn’t match up to the Trailer Park so I order the exact same thing EVERY TIME.  My friend Dusty went with the Croque Madame – I am sure it is delish, but I am not a fan of runny eggs.  They also have AMAZING truffle fries (not pictured because my friend Alyson ate all of them.  Seriously, they are that good we had to order a second batch).  A fun fact for you – Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport sells more hot dogs than any single location in the world – more than 2 million a year!

Dog Menu

Trailer Park (sans slaw)
Croque Madame

Another Cincinnati favorite would be my dad’s biscuits and gravy with cheesy eggs.  He has been whipping them up since I can remember and I haven’t been able to find a restaurant that makes em better!  Obviously most of you won’t be able to try this delightful dish, but if you are craving some of the best biscuits and gravy in the country I’m sure he’d be happy to have you over.  I believe my undying love for baseball, specifically the Reds, came from my dad.  I don’t think he knows another radio station outside of 700WLW.  As a child I have fond memories of listening to the great Joe Nuxholl and Marty Brennaman call the games.  

Vintage Marty & Joe
My trip home was cut a little short so I decided to bring a few more Cincinnati favorites back to the Windy City to share with some Chicagoans.  I obviously had to bring some Montgomery Inn ribs!  So amazingly delicious that it was worth having the security guard give me a hard time for carrying 3 slabs of ribs in my suitcase!!  If you love BBQ then you must treat yourself to a night at Montgomery Inn (don’t forget to order a side of saratoga chips).  Montgomery Inn also has a concession stand at Great American Ball Park!  Here you can indulge in their pulled chicken or pork sandwiches and Saratoga chips.  (GABP carries other local favorites including Larosa’s Pizza, Skyline Chili, and United Dairy Farmers Ice Cream).  If you don’t live in Cincinnati and have no trips planned you can turn that frown upside down because Montgomery Inn delivers across the country!  You can order the ribs online and they will arrive perfectly packaged in dry ice.  Just throw them on the grill and dig in – a bib is highly recommended. 

I couldn’t bring back ribs without a dessert, and since my cupcake was a letdown I picked up some of my favorite cookies from The BonBonerie (luckily I had an open seat next to me on the plane so they were not ruined in transit).  These cookies not only look great, but they are so delicious too!  They change them up constantly for different holidays and seasons.  When I stopped in they also had basketballs (March Madness) and Clowns (the circus must have been in town), but the basketballs were boring and I am terrified of clowns, so I ended up with the beautiful spring flowers.